While the national anti-immigrant Minuteman groups – Chris Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project – are apparently devolving due to financial mismanagement, it’s important to remember that the Minuteman brand persists in the scattered and often incendiary local outfits bearing the name. A case in point is the recent protests of a Fallbrook, California Catholic church that – for 15 years – has offered breakfast to day laborers seeking work at a nearby intersection.
For the last three weeks, members of the San Diego Minutemen have staged vociferous Saturday protests against an informal labor center run by the church. The protests have involved shouting through a bullhorn, displaying an effigy of a priest wearing a devil’s mask and waving picket signs against illegal immigration.
One of the protests took place last month as children left the church after celebrating their First Communion, a traditional Roman Catholic ceremony, said Claudia Smith, an immigrant rights advocate who was at the church during the protests. “It was incredibly disrespectful to spoil a child’s First Communion,” Smith said. “It was a new low.”
Jeff Schwilk, founder of the San Diego Minutemen, said the church attracted his group’s attention because it allows day laborers to gather on its property looking for work. He said his group believes most of the workers are illegal immigrants and that the church is breaking federal laws by helping them find jobs.
The San Diego Minutemen are the same activists caught on film harassing day-laborers and potential employers last year. Their use of an effigy of a priest with devil horns (saying “More illegal aliens = more $$$”) prompted an angry response from far-right activist Bill Donohue of the Catholic League:
“Showing how incredibly debased and uncivil they are, the San Diego Minutemen have sought to paint all priests as pedophiles and have pledged to continue their incivility all summer long. To top it off, the xenophobes are illiterate. ‘With all the pediphelia [sic] problems going on in the church,’ a posting on its Internet site says, ‘it makes no sense to have 50 loitering men watching little children playing on the playground each morning.’
“There are legitimate ways to protest. This is not one of them. By succumbing to anti-Catholic bigotry and harassment, the San Diego Minutemen have discredited their cause and have no moral grounds upon which to make their appeal. They should be opposed not only by Latino Catholics, but by all Catholics.”
Photo from North County Times.